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“The memories that Facebook and TimeHop present each morning can bring an unexpected smile or trigger your grief so profoundly it’s paralyzing. Today they brought a smile. And then writing this brought an onslaught of tears . . .

We took a family trip in 2012 to Hawaii. Today as I went through those photos, it reminded me just how funny our kids are. Together they were quite a show. It made me reflect on my daughter’s journey, her loss, and how often times siblings are forgotten in the process.

On this particular trip, the two of them were sitting on a driftwood bench together, posing for a photo – that I’m so glad I insisted upon – when an elderly gentleman approached and told them what a cute couple they make. Of course, that delighted John and mortified Kate.

Courtesy Kristin Schlegel

You see John absolutely adored her. He thought she was amazing. John was also a snuggler and would gladly squeeze her to pieces. She wasn’t at the stage of life where she thought sibling snuggling was cool. So whenever someone approached them – not seeing the family resemblance right away, John thought it was hilarious, and quite frankly, he was fine with people thinking that this beautiful blonde, this older woman, was his date – and he would go out of his way to ham it up for whoever was commenting. ‘Come to me darling’, I can hear him say. His eyes twinkling with glee.

Courtesy Kristin Schlegel

She could always get him to open up. He would gladly go with her to any function, follow her around, protect her. He just loved being with her. Calling her and telling her he was gone was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Courtesy Kristin Schlegel

Going from a family of four to a family of three is devastating. She is now our only living child with all the pressure that comes with it. She has lost the one she could talk to about us, reminisce about their childhood, about people they both know, about that Blink 182 concert or family trips. She’s lost that familiar bond you form with the people that know you best. The one who knows what makes you laugh, your favorite movie, that beef jerky makes you want to vomit.

She’s lost the one that she could call and know he’d always answer. That he’d drop everything and come. She has no siblings to speak of anymore – just a big pile of heartache. Every time she wants to share a funny meme that she knows he’d like – there is no response.

Courtesy Kristin Schlegel

People who know her ask how her parents are doing. People who don’t know her ask if she has any siblings. They were a beautiful matching set – and now one is missing from the picture. He will forever remain in the background. Unseen. Unknown to any new friends. Her daughter has learned his name, she recognizes him in photos – but what do we tell her about him? How do we keep him a part of the past and the present?

How do you explain to tiny people what they are missing? The plans that he had for them – what he was going to teach them. How he looked forward to having his own kids. How our family gatherings would be filled with us four, plus spouses and grandkids. Would his kids look like hers? Would he have a little girl that favored his sister? Would he have married Morgan and have little blonde kids like Kate? Or black-haired kids like he and his brother in law?

Would those cousins have giggled hysterically together? Would they all have that sense of humor that bonded Kate and him together so profoundly? Would they all have adopted talking in accents and laughing until they cried? Would they all watch Elf together at Christmastime and recite their favorite movie lines? Would any of his kids like eggnog?

Would they make silly faces and travel together? I guess those questions shouldn’t be asked because it was not to be. I guess at this point we just hold the memories we do have close and thank God we had him for as long as we did. We will never think 24 years was enough – but we know we will see him again. Mourning for him is enough – mourning for his future just brings more heartache than we can bear.

Courtesy Kristin Schlegel

Remember the brothers and sisters that are left to deal with the double heartache. They have their own loss to grieve, but they’ve also lost the parents that they knew. They’ve lost a best friend, a forever friend.

If you have all your kids – you are beyond blessed. You are the luckiest people in the world. You have everything.”

Courtesy Kristin Schlegel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristin Schlegel of The Portal: Portal-ity Thoughts. Follow her journey on Instagram here and her website here.  Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Kristin here: 

‘It’s day 721 of not seeing you. You aren’t something we can pack up, put in a box and label with a Sharpie. You are our son.’: Mom’s grief journey after losing military son, ‘I miss you’

‘You died while we were sleeping. We were merely a few feet down the hall. When we woke to the puppy crying, you were ice cold.’: Mom loses military son to fentanyl overdose, ‘I had no idea how hard it was for you’

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